Every teenager kidnapped, every rocket from Gaza launched, and every prior clash between Jews and Arabs are all part of that same war and experience for the Palestinian nation. Until we see this, peace can not be achieved.
On Yom Ha’atzmaut, the Jewish nation celebrates its reformation into the State of Israel; the pinnacle of Jewish pride, the land of milk and honey, a triumph over 2000 years of oppression, the Nazis, and the long odds of the ambitious nature of Zionism. We celebrate, we learn, and we, especially, tell our children all about the great accomplishments of the Jewish state. We made the desert bloom! We turned a neglected land into a home of booming industry and economic growth. We reclaimed our future, we reclaimed our land, and we were, once again, David knocking back the aggressive hand of Goliath. Today, we take pride in the allusion. But is illusion more fitting? Our stories are nice and partially true, but only partially. The land was not empty, a nation was displaced.
Now, with the recent launch of Operation Protective Edge, the bombing campaign on Gaza, where over 400 hundred Palestinians have been killed and over a 3000 wounded (some critically so), I hear many excuses for why Israel is still David. “Oh, we warn them of attacks!” We exclaim. “We don’t purposely target civilians!” Some cry as they wave away the mounting death toll. And the worst of the worst: “The Palestinians love death the way we love life!” I mean, that is the only real reason why Palestinians would be willing to purposely allow themselves to become “human shields” for a horrible terrorist organization, right? Our view is so clean, so finished – and so wrong. It’s not only that we don’t understand the other, we refuse to.
Palestinians are people. The fact that this is controversial in our community is depressing. We refuse to actually see Palestinians in the same light as ourselves, even when discussing parallels in our histories. When I went on my Birthright trip last summer, we were taken to an old prison in Akko and told of British oppressed, “freedom fighting” Jews who were resisting British colonial rule. These “freedom fighters” terrorized British soldiers serving their legitimate post in the Mandate of Palestine, and attacked Arab communities who had been there for generations. Why don’t we recognize them for what they are: terrorists. If they are resisters or freedom fighters, why are Palestinian actions of the same caliber framed only as terrorism? We see the Jewish terrorists of 1930s and 1940s Mandate Palestine as heroes or try to justify their actions; yet if a Palestinian were to do the same thing, we would huff and puff and cry terrorism and shout to the world that Palestinians don’t want peace.
And herein lies our failure to understand, our failure to perceive. Our War for Independence ended in 1949; theirs continues. Peace can never be achieved for us until we realize the other side’s war never ended. How could their war end? We expelled them from their land, pillaged and renamed their villages, and resettled them to our liking. The birth of Israel raped and orphaned Palestine. Palestinians are a nation in exile, a nation that has never been allowed to take a breather from years of suffering and oppression. Every teenager kidnapped, every rocket from Gaza launched, and every prior clash between Jews and Arabs are all part of that same war and experience for the Palestinian nation.
Israel may have won their War of Independence, but the Palestinians refuse to lose theirs. This should not be difficult to understand. Nations don’t choose to lose, especially when they have nowhere to go. Continued war will only bring continued insecurity and continued acts of violence. Palestinian terrorism will not die out until their war ends, and their war can’t end until we, the Jewish people, give them the respect, dignity, and recognition they deserve. A nationalist spirit and a historic wrong cannot be buried or defeated through propaganda or war, no matter what we continue to tell ourselves. This is what we can’t see.